A massive abstract wood sculpture, El Serpente (1953) was the first object to greet viewers to the Museo Experimental El Eco in Mexico City in 1953. Mathias Goeritz designed the building to be a “living institution,” a space to host multidisciplinary projects. The sculpture’s dips and peaks are both reminiscent of a snake’s movements and recall the ancient temple-pyramids of Mesoamerica. Goeritz intended El Serpente to be the opening statement for the museum, his first attempt at producing “emotional architecture.” El Eco was a Neo-Concrete building designed to house art, music, theater, literature, and cinema all under one roof, with the stated purpose of producing “spiritual uplift” by eliciting “true emotions.” Goeritz hoped the museum would be an antidote to what he saw as the cold and de-humanizing rationality of postwar Mexico’s functional architecture.
The dramatic abstract form of El Serpente complimented the architecture of El Eco, a fanciful building that eschewed the regularity of level surfaces or right angles. Its irregularities invited the viewer to actively engage with the space, creating a highly personal experience of both the building and the sculpture. But El Serpente had a functional and social component as well: it was used as a set for dance performances, such as the one choreographed by Luis Buñuel (1900–1983) and performed by the Walter Nicks dance group. By inviting participation and interaction with the space around it, El Serpente exceeded the parameters of purely rational Concrete art.